Town Jails Latino Man For Calling It ‘Shitty’

Willian Barboza CREDIT: NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
Willian Barboza CREDIT: NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION

The “shitty town” of Liberty, New York arrested Willian Barboza and jailed him for hours until he posted bail, after he expressed frustration with a speeding ticket he received while driving through this town. This arrest violated the First Amendment, according to a decision handed down last week by a federal judge.

Barboza was pulled over in 2012 for speeding in Liberty. He plead guilty and paid his fine. When he did so, however, he also wrote the words “fuck your shitty town bitches” on the payment form. In response, the ironically named town rejected his payment, ordered him to travel two hours from home to appear in court, and then arrested him after he arrived.

For using a few swear words, Barboza was charged under an almost comically broad New York law which prohibits anyone from communicating by mail “with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person . . . in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.” New York’s highest court declared this law unconstitutional in 2014.

In a ruling from the bench, federal District Judge Cathy Seibel not only concluded that Liberty and the persons responsible for his arrest “violated plaintiff’s First Amendment rights when they arrested him,” she also ordered further proceedings to determine whether the place Barboza labeled a “shitty town” must compensate him for the arrest.